It all worked out, exactly as Joe Tantarelli planned it.
Despite scholarship offers from Texas A&M and Temple, Tantarelli chose to walk on at Missouri. The decision to pass up a free college education must have been tempting, but Tantarelli was confident enough in his talents to take a chance at Missouri.
That choice has paid off, and then some. Tantarelli beat out sophomore Alex Pettersen and freshmen Adam Crossett and Scott Russell to become the starting placekicker for the No. 17 team in the country. His success, or lack thereof, this season will be vitally important to Missouri's chances. The former standout at Glendale (Ariz.) Community College became quite the focus of media attention Monday. Here's a sampling of his responses.
On choosing Missouri: "I did turn down a couple offers to come play ball here. I waited until later on, in April or March. I decided that this would be the place to come play. It's a good opportunity to play. Other schools offered a good opportunity as well, but the program wasn't where this program is right now. I wanted, quite honestly, to play for a competitor. Missouri offered that best chance."
On making the choice: "Before I came here, I was leaning towards a school back in California, to stay close to home. Basically it was a decision that I made, to give it a shot. I have some years to play, so I might as well go out and have a good time."
On where he thought he fit in before camp: "I was optimistic. I know what I'm capable of doing and I know my abilities. Coming into camp, I knew I was going to have to do my best. I knew it wasn't going to be a walk over or anything like that."
On his recruiting and a bit of good coaching advice: "Coach (Dave) Christensen pretty much brought me here. He's the guy I dealt with throughout the whole recruiting process. I came out here a little bit nervous the first day or two. He told me, ‘Hey, just relax and kick the ball. As long as it goes through the uprights, that's all that matters.' Basically as it turned out, I was just able to put the ball through the uprights more than Adam and Alex and Scott, on a consistent basis. All they're looking for, especially in the field goal kicker, is consistency. I think that's what they got out of myself. I consider myself a consistent kicker."
On not winning the kick-off duties, which will be handled by Crossett: "In the JC level, I kicked off and kicked field goals. Here, I knew that I was pretty much coming here to be the field goal guy. That was the deepest need. As far as the kick-off job, quite honestly, I wasn't too concerned with it. I'm confident, and I know the team's confident, with Adam's kickoff ability."
On dealing with pressure: "Quite honestly, I don't have any pressure. I go out there and I do what I'm capable of. I do what I practice. Like I said, I'm not going to apply pressure to myself. I'm on a fresh start. I had a good year last year, I know it was JC ball and that's a lot different, especially from Big 12 football. But that's what I do. That's what I do best. I'm not applying any more added pressure to myself right now. I'm just going to go out there and enjoy it and go do what I do best."
On his range: "I kicked a 51-yarder in a game before, so I'm not worried about that kind of distance. Practice is totally different from the games, but I know what my range is. I feel quite honestly that 50 and in is a good range for myself."